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Solon cautions gov’t against selling military golf courses

By Charlie V. Manalo
09/03/2011 [ tribune.net.ph ]

An administration solon last Thursday cautioned against proposals to turn golf courses of the Armed Forces of the Philippines into commercial complexes for the purpose of generating income for the government because this would destroy what little greeneries that are left in Metro Manila.

According to Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, suggestions to destroy the various AFP golf courses in favor of malls and other commercial complexes purposely to raise revenues sounds logical, especially at a time that the government sorely need funds but this might have long-term effects on the environment.

“The golf courses does not only provide our veterans and the public a healthy diversion but more importantly, these areas are basically the only patches of greenery that can be found in Metro Manila aside from our wildparks that are sporadically located in the metropolis,” Sarmiento said.

“There is a need to balance such proposal because Metro Manila is running out of green spaces for carbon dioxide absorption,” he added as he noted that the unabated increase in vehicles and other sources of air pollutants has made Metro Manila one of the most polluted cites around the world.

Sarmiento said that in the short term, the government can cash in from the conversion of these golf courses but in the long-term, its effects on the air quality of Metro Manila and its overall impact on the environment can be devastating.

Sarmiento observed that weather conditions not only in the Philippines have been increasingly violent and unpredictable due to climate change and too much urbanization without any regard to the environment is not a good investment for the government.

But if it is really inevitable to make the AFP golf courses into revenue-generating ventures using AFP lands as capital, the government should go beyond the “let’s-sell-it” mentality that practically decimated the AFP’s real estate assets during the past administrations, but provided no real evidence that the sale of prime military lands were put to good use.

“We’ve sold much of Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Airbase but I have yet to see a modern AFP. With due respect to the past administrations, I think that it is only under President Aquino that we are beginning to see an honest-to-goodness modernization plan for our military. However, I really believe that we should now do away with this policy of selling military lands in exchange for a one-time revenue,” Sarmiento said.

What should be done Sarmiento said is to duplicate the Singapore model where properties are put out on a long-term lease, with the rental paid upfront to immediately generate income for the government.

Sarmiento said that specifically, Singapore— a country which is even smaller than Quezon City— has adopted a policy of entering into 60-year lease agreements on the use of its real estate but license of its usage has to be renewed after 30 years. Nonetheless, the lessor must pay in full upfront for the 60-year lease, immediately generating income for the government without really giving its real estate asset.

As a pre-condition for such lease agreements, however, Sarmiento said that developers should be required to provide a green sanctuary, including high-rise eco-parks, before they are allowed to develop a certain area to ensure that development will not get in the way of the global battle against climate change.
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